Caste route to winning votes - Hindustan Times
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Caste route to winning votes

ByHT Editorial
May 22, 2024 08:48 PM IST

Composition of NDA, INDIA bloc candidate lists represents the political churn in UP

The caste calculus of candidates in Uttar Pradesh is revealing for it points to the trajectory of politics in the state. Two data points from the candidates lists of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance and the INDIA bloc of the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Congress stand out. One, the large number of Hindu upper castes, especially Brahmins, among the candidates; and two, the absence of many Yadav candidates. Both converge to suggest a broad trend wherein Kamandal politics seems to have the upper hand in political discourse and narrative-building over Mandal politics; despite welfare schemes leading to the creation of the labharthi constituency, the two rival ideologies, Hindutva and social justice, remain an undercurrent in the state’s electoral politics, although both have evolved over the years.

**EDS: IMAGE VIA PM MODI WEBSITE** Barabanki: BJP supporters during a public meeting addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for Lok Sabha elections, in Barabanki, Uttar Pradesh, Friday, May 17, 2024. (PTI Photo)(PTI05_17_2024_000071B)(PTI) PREMIUM
**EDS: IMAGE VIA PM MODI WEBSITE** Barabanki: BJP supporters during a public meeting addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for Lok Sabha elections, in Barabanki, Uttar Pradesh, Friday, May 17, 2024. (PTI Photo)(PTI05_17_2024_000071B)(PTI)

The nominal presence of Yadavs in the fray — there are just six, including five from the Mulayam Singh Yadav family, fielded by the Samajwadi Party (SP), and a lone BJP nominee — is significant. It reveals the complex terrain of politics in UP, where the electoral dynamic is forcing political parties to course correct to stay relevant. For instance, the SP, a legatee of Mandal politics in the state, became too closely identified as a party of Yadavs and Muslims, which stalled its expansion. In recent times, the party has sought a makeover to pitch itself as a platform of the pichhde, Dalit and alpsankhyak (OBCs, Dalits and minorities) communities by increasing its bahujan outreach and becoming more representative in its poll pitch — a sort of a Mandal-plus.

The high proportion of upper castes in the list is because 45% of the NDA candidates are from that segment. Brahmins and Rajputs make the largest number of candidates — 26 and 22, respectively — with the BJP putting up 16 each from these two communities. These numbers reflect the BJP’s social base, of course, but it is also because the party has fielded candidates from 75 constituencies in the state. Interestingly, 27 different communities are represented in the BJP candidate list, which points to the expansive social coalition the party has stitched in UP: It has wooed a large number of smaller but hitherto unrepresented Other Backward Classes (OBC) to its fold. This tactical intervention helps the BJP to fend off criticism about potential Hindu upper caste bias in its priorities when caste census and reservations are discussed in the campaign. Interestingly, the Kamandal constituency has also passed through a Mandalisation process, making the BJP a Hindutva plus Mandal party.

These changes perhaps highlight the complexity of the electoral battle in the state which sends 80 representatives to the Lok Sabha.

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